Are you a Leaders that Teaches or Do You Grade Papers

You have worked for both, right?

Which one made you feel like you were growing, developing new skills and enjoyed going to work?

It was the teacher. Leaders that teach build great teams and outperform the leaders that spend most of their dragging their teams into non-productive, mind numbing, morale killing details all the time.

Too many leaders find comfort getting into, and staying, in the weeds, in the details, the deeper the better. It is something they know. They love it. They learned it from a previous manager. (Manager being the key – not leader)

It feels like they are in constant pursuit of something they can find and say “gotcha”. They are looking for a mistake or something you did wrong. Some of the ones I worked for lived in the expense report editing role or trying to manage a travel schedule. Some others found their passion in helping with presentation editing. Granted some was fair but when they get into the style of fonts and colors….just shoot me. Others wanted to review emails and discuss everything you are working on just to me in the loop, not to help.

These are leaders that like to “grade papers”.

What they do not understand is high potential employees do not want to work for them. The people who end up working for the graders are people that want to be managed and told what to do everyday. These are not the dreamers, the innovators, or the change agents that will deliver superior results.

Leaders that grade papers suck the life out of an organization.

Great Leaders have a passion for teaching.

The great leaders want to help you solve problems by teaching you how to solve them not telling you how to solve them. They have no desire get into all the details of everything you are doing.

Great leaders want their best people to work on tough, demanding but highly rewarding initiatives. (The highest potential employees want to work on them too) These leaders teach how to think about the problems and how to solve them.

My most effective way to teach was to tell stories as a way to provide examples. Most of the time my stories illustrated how not to do something because it failed. (Great leaders have confidence and can tell stories where they failed)

The stories were usually about failing to get enough input because I was going too fast or skipping a step or two to save time, or not listening to feedback. (Yes most of my flat spots were from being too aggressive).

Great leaders teach employees how not to make these mistakes. They also give them permission to fail. Great leaders tell their people they are going to fail so get over it. It’s going to happen, many times. Great leaders will, again, give examples of their great failures, explain what they learned, and give the employees confidence to dust off and move forward after a project crashes.

Here is one of hundreds of examples of stores about what not to do.

I once lost a $30 million dollar piece of business because I was arrogant to the key decision maker. I remember the moment when I said something I should not have said to him, watched the look on his face change, his body language change and it was over. It took about 4 months for the process to run its course but I lost the business in a moment when I should have kept my mouth shut and taken some barbs but instead, took a shot back at the guy. It was an immature and unprofessional behavior. I did not know the guy very well and he made his decision based on those comments.

That’s one of hundreds of stories I told. This one made a couple of points. 1) When in doubt, keep your mouth shut, 2) yes, I lost the business but I did not lose my job. You can fail and survive. But I learned to keep my mouth shut.

I know my teams grew more from the stories I told them than they ever would have by me doubling checking the addition on their expense reports.

Are you a leader that teaches or grades papers?

Wayne StricklandComment